|Joseph Henry (1797-1878) was the leading
American experimental physicist of his day and the first secretary (director)
of the Smithsonian Institution. His papers illuminate the history of American
science, education, and culture during the first three quarters of the
nineteenth century. The fifty-one documents in this mini-edition (from January
to May 1847) are taken from his first year as head of the Smithsonian. They
show Henry striving to ensure that the enigmatic bequest of British scientist
James Smithson be used in America to support original scientific research and
publication, rather than to create a national museum or library. Many of the
documents also shed light on the social and political life of antebellum
Washington, D.C. Also included are documents relating to Henry's roles as
scientific consultant and researcher, such as entries from his laboratory
notebook, the "Record of Experiments," which may be viewed in facsimile by
clicking on a link provided in the document.
Marc Rothenberg, Editor
Kathleen W. Dorman,
Frank R. Millikan, Historian
Jeffries, Research Assistant
Joseph Henry, oil on canvas, 1875, by Henry Ulke (1821-1910).
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution.